FAB 3. An Early Look At Bucs’ 2018 Schedule

With two games left on the 2017 schedule Tampa Bay’s 2018 opponents are coming into focus. While the Bucs are destined to finish last in the NFC South division for a seventh time in the last nine years, it’s important to note that they won’t have a favorable last-place schedule.

Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

The NFL did away with that years ago and went to a more structured model featuring the division opponents twice, one other NFC division, and one AFC division, in addition to two conference games against opponents that finished in the same place in their respective divisions. With the Bucs finishing fourth in the NFC South, next year’s NFL schedule calls for them to play the fourth place finisher in the NFC West division and the NFC North because Tampa Bay and the NFC South teams will play all four of the NFC East teams next year as well as the AFC North teams.

For the Bucs, that likely means playing the San Francisco 49ers at home and the Bears in Chicago. That means the Bucs and the Bears – old NFC Central foes – will play each other for the fourth year in a row. After losses at Chicago and Tampa Bay in 2014 and ’15, the Bucs have prevailed at home in each of the last two years.

Bucs’ 2018 Home Schedule
Philadelphia Eagles – 12-2
Washington Redskins – 6-8
Cleveland Browns – 0-12
Pittsburgh Steelers – 11-3
Atlanta Falcons – 9-5
Carolina Panthers – 10-4
New Orleans Saints – 10-4
San Francisco 49ers – 4-10*

Bucs’ 2018 Away Schedule
Dallas Cowboys – 8-6
New York Giants – 2-12
Baltimore Ravens – 8-6
Cincinnati Bengals – 5-9
Atlanta Falcons – 9-5
Carolina Panthers – 10-4
New Orleans Saints – 10-4
Chicago Bears – 4-10*

The 49ers aren’t a lock to be a Bucs’ opponent quite yet as they are 4-10 and trail the 6-8 Arizona Cardinals by two games. However, the Cardinals would have to lose both of their remaining games and the 49ers would have to be victorious in the last two weeks of the season for San Francisco to get out of the NFC West cellar. Here’s a look at the remaining schedule of both 49ers and Cardinals:

49ers – 4-10
49ers vs. Jaguars
49ers at Rams

Arizona 6-8
Giants at Cardinals
Cardinals at Seahawks

One of the takeaways from the 2018 schedule is that it currently features 10 foes with winning records. That could change if Dallas and Baltimore – both of which have 8-6 records – finish with two losses and wind up 8-8.

Half of the Bucs’ 2017 wins have come against the Bears and the Giants, and both are on the schedule for next year, in addition to the winless Browns and likely the 49ers. Of course Tampa Bay’s biggest challenge will come in the NFC South where the Bucs are currently winless.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

28 COMMENTS

  1. I know that I am in the minority in this and that I will get skewered by all the trolls; however, I think it would be a mistake to fire Koetter and not give him another year. If you fire him after one bad season you become the Browns and the Bills. A new coach will mean a new system and he will want his own players, which means the great drafts we’ve had might mean nothing and we would be starting all over again. You can’t build a consistent football team like that. Do we really believe that Koetter is as bad as Morris, Schiano or Smith? At some point, any good perspective coach is going to look at Tampa Bay as a coaching graveyard and will turn down the job in favor of going to a team with a more patient ownership. Free agents will think the same thing despite whatever money the Glazers throw at them. Yes, some players are in it for the money. Those are the wrong type of players anyway. Most players want a shot at the playoffs and a Super Bowl ring. Give Koetter another year and make some coaching changes. If the result is the same, then you fire him.

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    • JayBuc52
      Be prepared for the trolls but I’ll stand with you. Instead to writing a comment I am going to use your words and emphasize my sentiments verbatim. Sweeping coaching changes now simply imply we are the Cleveland Browns South.

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      • The Bucs ARE the Browns of the NFC South, the perennial cellar dwellers of the division, ever since Gruden was fired at the end of the 2008 season. Since then, we’ve only had two seasons with winning records out of nine, no division championships. Sitting in our accustomed position of last in the division yet again this year.

        Changing coaches is not the problem. Changing coaches is the result of choosing coaches poorly. Starting with the foolish decision to fire Jon Gruden in January 2009.

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    • Yes, arguing for firing Koetter makes you a troll. Real strong defense there. *eye roll*

      Churning through coaches is only a negative if you’re firing good coaches. Like Morris, Schiano, and Lovie, Koetter is a bad coach. He was hired not because he was the best candidate but to preserve Winston’s development (which hasn’t happened). Under his tenure the Bucs have been bad on defense, terrible on special teams, and never better than 18th in points scored. He’s not a leader and has hired bad coaches.

      A real keeper there.

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    • Jay I agree: if we look at just one example the head coach for Carolina the Fan Base wanted him fired after his second year.
      The owner stayed with him it worked out very well. I do think some coaches on the team will be replaced. Just my opinion.

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    • I’m with you 100%. If this team fires yet another coach after only two seasons I’m done with them. I’m sick and tired of drafting guys, watching the develop into quality NFL players, then watching them get let go because they don’t fit the new coach’s scheme (Donald Penn) or the new coach doesn’t like their attitude or personality (Michael Bennett). Its just draft picks down the tubes. And if Koetter is fired who are you going to replace him with, Jon Gruden? Fat chance. Gruden’s not leaving the best job in football to come back and work for the same owners who treated him like garbage the first time around. I know pewter report has been pushing that fairy tale for weeks now but grow up people, it ain’t happening.

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      • i’m sick of hiring bad coaches.

        Hey, I’ve got an idea, why not hire a GOOD coach?

        Who’da thunk it?

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      • As for Gruden, he is on the razor’s edge with his current job as the highest paid on air talent at a network that has been conducting mass layoffs for the last two years because of plummeting ratings and plummeting “cut the cord” cable tv revenues. The handwriting is on the wall. Gruden either needs to get back into coaching, or resign himself to a massive pay cut or a firing. He’s too young to retire. And he is the best head football coach candidate available to the Glazers, who almost certainly have already offered him the job.

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  2. Go read Trevor’s article. Koetter’s offenses decline year after year. Three different teams and the same results. It’s the wrong offense. He will never out coach Payton, Quinn or Rivera. We need a more talented Head Coach. It was the wrong decision to put him in that job. The fans are not going to show up to watch a Dirk Koetter team next year. Gruden brings excitement and people will buy tickets to see it. That’s what the Glazers have to be considering.

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    • It can be said with Trevor’s chart Mike Smith is a bigger problem. Defense is still what it is about and allows most NFL QB’s and OC to not have to be perfect. We have a horible defense; stay focused on that thought.

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      • Koetter is not the coach of only the offense, he is the head coach and responsible for all aspects of team performance, offense, defense, and special teams. Koetter personally hand picked Mike Smith to coach the defense, after many years of working with and later for him. There is no excuse for Koetter to say that only Smith is responsible for the defense.

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  3. I always enjoy your very detailed analyses, Scott. I think that after the Atlanta game, the critics of Winston have to admit that he proved that he is well on point to be the Franchise QB that we have been looking for since our Super Bowl win. He also showed he can keep his emotions under control for an entire game without overthrowing his receivers and can start scoring on his opening attempt. I also have to admit that this year’s draft has panned out a lot better than I first projected. At the same time, though, you should admit that Licht has failed to build a strong Offensive Line to protect Jameis, which resulted in his hurt shoulder that threw this season into a tail spin, and he also failed to build a strong defensive line to pressure the opposing QB with skilled DEs and, and failed to build a defense to stop the run, missed on his first pick last year, wasted picks and choices on his place kickers, and should have gotten one of the many great RBs in this years’ draft. He still failed to get us into the playoffs which he said was his job. He needs to walk the plank for all those failures.

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    • I still reject the notion that a single game performance by Winston against Atlanta somehow defines him as a player, while completely ignoring that just one week earlier he lost the game for us with three give-aways. That game also does not define Winston as a player. The two games taken together actually DO define Winston as he has been for three seasons, a hot-cold-hot-cold player.

      Cherry picking and selective memory are not truthful descriptors of reality.

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  4. Week 8 of Scott’s series “Save My Friend Jason Licht!” and the struggle continues.

    Scott would really, really like to talk about something else other than the nice looking rookie draft class when it comes to Jason Licht’s time here, but unfortunately for readers, if he did, it wouldn’t be too positive.

    For example, if Scott talked about the fact that the Rams going to the playoffs this year will mean that the Buccaneers have the longest playoff drought in the entire NFC, well that wouldn’t be good as Jason has made the roster for the past 4 of those years. If Scott mentioned that the GM managed to make the Bucs defensive line the 3rd highest paid in the NFL with 40.1 million in cap space going to it, but which is last in the league in sacks (18) and 23rd in run defense at 119.5 ypg that wouldn’t be good either. But what if I told you that Jason agreed to keep Doug Martin’s 5th highest salary of any RB in the league this year even though it was unguaranteed due to his drug suspension and the Bucs have the 27th overall rushing offense in the league with their best runner being a UDFA because Licht largely passed on the bumper crop of RB’s this year? Would that sound good? I guess we should stick with our focus on that rookie safety and linebacker in order to save him instead.

    Now I would think a 4-10 team who’s 4 wins came against equally bad teams and did not beat a single team at or above 500 would be an indication that this team and the talent isn’t as good as people think, as you would think a supremely talented roster could play up to, or steal a game against a good opponent or two but Scott has informed me that actually it’s Dirk Koetter’s fault that the team only beats other teams to the level of it’s record. Thanks, for the heads up, Scott, next time my kickball team continues to lose to teams better than us I’ll make sure to blame our coach.

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    • The funniest part is EVERYONE knows you can’t evaluate a draft class after 1 year. It’s literally impossible.

      Howard, Evans, Goodwin, and Beckwith could all be busts. You CANNOT evaluate these players after 15 games. Yes, they look good in limited action. SR used to praise to high heavens every one of Domink’s draft classes because the rookies looked good.

      He hasn’t learned.

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      • There’s a thing in investing called recency bias I can only assume Scott Reynolds has never heard of, but thanks to the powers of google and a donation of 5 cents of electricity he may one day be able to find out. Help Scott Reynolds learn of recency bias by donating here.

        https://mullooly.net/recency-bias-is-everywhere/8236

        So if the 2016 NFL Draft was a complete dud despite a top 10 selection available in each round, the fact that the 2017 NFL Draft was good is more important to Scott because, naturally it is more recent even though if anything, the 2016 Draft had more capitol invested (higher draft picks) and a below average return. Further, if the Bucs were a stock, and that stock has been a dog for the past four years would you want the CEO during that time to continue because 4 new stores out of 53 were doing well? Which is more important, overall results or cherry picked recent ones?

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      • Yup … it takes a minimum of three years to judge a draft class, unless they all fail completely sooner. I like the guys we got, but the Bucs have specifically had LOTs of one-year wonder players who completely failed a year or two or three later, whether due to injury or just bad performance (see, Cadillac Williams, Michael Clayton, ASJ, etc. etc.). Ditto with players who were thought to be busts in their first one or two years who turned out to be terrific players, including perennial pro bowlers like Gerald McCoy and Ronde Barber.

        Light as a drafter is about average for the league. He’s an absolute failure on free agents and trades. And, we now know, Licht is also horrible as a head coach picker.

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    • thanks for telling it like it is…

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  5. Devasher, I’m with you. Scott starts off by saying drafting Howard was a no brainer. Like most of Lichts picks when drafting high it is kind of hard to miss. However Licht did miss big time with giving up draft capital for a kicker, an under sized, and slow corner, and Spence who was to small, and slow for a 4-3 D end. Even if you agree Godwin. Howard, and Evans are talented, we would’ve been just as well, or better off going in a different direction. With Mike Evans, Brate on board looking to get paid soon, did we really need another receiver, and tight end? Wouldn’t Hunt, or Kamara added better value? Justin Evans could become something, but safety is the last line of defense. The first line of defense is well the D line! How has Licht in his four years of drafting improved that area? Don’t sign Gholston, and Baker, you can afford C. Cambell. For those who want to stay the course, be prepared to stay the course. What you’ve seen in Licht, and Koetter is what you’re going to get. Atlanta S-canned Koetter, and Smith. Since then they’ve won division titles, been to the Super Bowl, and will probably make the playoffs again. Us?

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    • William Gholston had proven to be a consistently poor pash rusher who averaged 2.5 sacks a year in his first 4 years in Tampa. Was he an above average run denfender? Sure, but is a run-defending defensive end with no pass rush worth 6 million a year when you have no one who can reliably rush the passer in the first place? Who are the QB’s in the NFC South again?

      As noted the Bucs actually have the 3rd highest paid defensive line in the entire NFL(40 million) with the fewest sacks (18) and the bottom half run defense (23rd) in the NFL thanks to poor decision-making of the GM. For every Kendell Beckwith or Justin Evans, I can point to a William Gholston and Chris Baker, the question is which is more vital to a team’s success, sam linebacker and safety or pass rush at the defensive line?

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  6. Scott, Defense comes first and foremost. Why are you continuing to focus on Koetter and Winston when it should be Mike Smith and Jason Licht? How can you not yell loudly that Smith needs to go? Even Trevor’s chart connects the dots more to Smith than Koetter.
    Let go back to the real problem? No productive DE drafted since when? No DE drafted in the first round since win? There’s the big problem. If Licht learned anything from Belicheck, is a very special coach, is never be afraid to toss away a drafted pick if it’s not producing, but get something for it, so it’s totally not wasted. You article today was far from your best one because you’re repeating your message over and over and are bringing nothing new to the plate; it’s still bread and water.

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    • A long forgotten about move by the “greatest GM in Bucs history” according to at least commenter on PR is that rather than filling the vacant LG position in free agency or the draft in 2014 Jason Licht swung a trade with the Patriots in training camp for 32 year old Logan Mankins. The Bucs then proceeded to go 2-14 that year. I’m not sure how wise it is to trade a draft pick for a nearly-retired player when you are about to embark on being the worst team in football, but then again, I’m not a GM.

      For those wondering, the 4th round pick that year was the 2nd pick in the round, was used by the Patriots to take Trey Flowers, who is the Patriots best pass rusher this year, has 6.5 sacks and 13.5 over the past two years. Which is sliiightly more than Noah Spence has in the same period (6.5).

      If pass rush wasn’t your thing at the top of the 4th round of the 2015 draft, the Bucs could have used the pick on Panthers starting RT Daryl Williams who was taken one pick later, or WR Jamison Crowder (4 spots later) who has been slightly more productive and cheaper than big dollar free agent Desean Jackson has been for the Bucs.

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  7. Could it be that PR misjudged the Buccaneers strength of schedule last summer, which is currently rated toughest in the league. We’ve beaten the teams we were supposed to beat with the possible exception of Arizona. We’ve lost close games we could have won against the Bills, Patriots, Lions, Falcons, and Packers. We have the #11 ranked offense in the league even without a quality running back. Our head coach showed he can win in this league last year. He should get another year. Gruden had a four win season and kept his job. Get to the playoffs next year or get fired. Has any team ever gone through a season with as many missed games due to injury as the Buccaneers. On Sunday, we will start the game without 7 starters on offense and likely at least 6 on defense. That will be true of no other team in the league, yet they still are playing hard.

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  8. It’s amazing how one year makes such a transformation in our assessment of the Coaching. Last year, at the end we were all sure that we were going to go to the playoffs, and that we would be one of the top NFL teams.
    Now, we need to fire everyone, including the QB, Coaches, and Management. I don’t think it is that dire. Actually, I think the Drafting as of late has been pretty good even though some of the picks this year were surprises and most of us figured that with the exception of the first pick this year that the others would be lucky to get in the lineup at all this year or start or become exceptionally good, and yet several of them did just that. I still will say that strategy seems to be something lacking in this organization. We need free agency strategy and drafting strategy. We have more holes to fill than one draft can solve. We have got to do better than players like Baker and Sweezy. Bucs are going to have to strike gold this next year in the draft and Free Agency. And as far as coaches? Let’s start with a Conditioning Coach.

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  9. I have gone on extensively about Lichts inept abilities as GM but I think there’s a more simple reason he should be gone. He inherited a 4 win team and after 4 years of his influence on the roster and coaching staff we are likely headed to another 4 win season. The results don’t speak of this drastic roster improvement some y’all about. The names are different but u til the results change then he’s not doing a good enough job.

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    • Unfortunately results aren’t as important to some people. Especially if the guy that is in charge of those poor results keeps a good relationship and access to those covering so they can write puff pieces about him.

      As Scott Reynolds has already indicated, the worst sin you can do to PR is not perform poorly (Mark Dominik did that for years) but restrict access to them. That’ll get strong calls for being fired early into your second year even if you were coming off of a promising 7-9 record as Scott admitted was a major player in his calls for Greg Schiano to be fired.

      For those who may have forgotten Scott took the side of a QB who had half of Tampa reporting his extracurricular activities in Josh Freeman and write confidently that he’d be comfortable with Freeman babysitting his children to explain big bad Schiano is to blame for his failures. Bias much?

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  10. mike smith might be swinging a horsec*ck in the booth up stairs, but he still has to go no matter what,…if chucky says yes you gotta go with the little chuckaneer…you really don’t have a choice…maybe retain coach koetter to wash jerseys or something…but make sure to make him the highest paid laundry boy in the nfl…frankly i could care less if his hands smell like keesters or liquid tide

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  11. Several points:

    1) The 2017 draft is a good draft so far, but that judgment may change completely in one or two years, as they do more often than not.

    2) Licht is horrible at managing free agents, just horrible. The Win-Loss record along with the record of expensive free agents hired then not producing and being let go after 1 or 2 seasons are all that we need to know that Licht sucks at this really important part of his job.

    3) Licht is also horrible at head coaching hires – he’s hired one, and he’s produced 4 wins in his second season. I mean, how much more proof do we need to know that Licht sucks at this really important part of his job, just as he sucks at job #2.

    4) “Strength of schedule” is meaningless in a parity league like the NFL, where “worst to first” and “first to worst” are the norm in most divisions not including the Patriots, Steelers, or Seahawks. Predicting next year’s strength of schedule based upon this year’s results is a fool’s errand.

    Finally, with reports now circulating from the NFL network’s best reporter (Ian Rapaport) that Gruden is already assembling a staff of assistants, we must assume that the Glazers have already offered him the job, but are keeping it unofficial until the Week 17 game’s last whistle is over. Expect an announcement right after the last echo of the last whistle.

    As to whether Licht will be the GM after the Koetter regime is obliterated, I don’t know. IF the Glazers retain him, it will be for one season only (per his contract extension inked last summer), and Gruden will not be under his thumb, and will have final say over the 53-man roster. Or perhaps the Glazers already have a new GM in mind, and they’ve already run him by Gruden for a thumb’s up.

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